Online Sources of Fake News

Not a guide to particular sources, although examples are mentioned, Alastair Reid sets out categories of fake news sources in The 5 sources of fake news everyone needs to look out for online.

From the post:

No, soldiers aren’t being kicked off an army base to make way for Syrian refugees. Sorry, but Ted Cruz didn’t have a Twitter meltdown and blame God for his failed presidential campaign. And that viral video of a woman being chased down a mountainside with a bear is almost definitely fake.

The internet has a fake news problem and some lies can be dangerous. A fantastic story might be entertaining, but misinformation can fundamentally change how people view the world and their fellow citizens, influencing opinions, behaviour and votes.

This isn’t really news – lies have always been part of the fabric of society, whether spoken or written – but the internet has given anyone a platform to share false information and the tools to make untruths ever harder to detect.

Understanding the origins of fake news is part of the process. So where does it come from?

I’m disappointed people are spreading the truth about Ted Cruz not blaming God for his failed campaign. Anything, lie, fact, rumor, etc., that blackens his reputation cannot be a bad thing in my view.

Let obscure history dissertations separate fact from fiction about Ted Cruz several centuries from now. Once we are certain the stake they should drive through his heart upon burial isn’t going to work loose. The important goal now is to limit his ability to harm the public.

And so it is with all “fake” news, there is some goal to be furthered by the spreading of the fake news.

“Official sources of propaganda” are the first group that Alastair mentions and somewhat typically the focus is on non-Western governments, although Western propaganda gets a nod in the last paragraph of that section.

My approach to Western (and other) government reports, statements by government actors or people who want to be government actors is as follows:

  1. They are lying.
  2. Who benefits from this lie? (Contributors, Contractors, Cronies)
  3. Who is disadvantaged by this lie? (Agency infighting, career competitors)
  4. Why lie about this now? (Relationship to other events and actors)
  5. Is this lie consistent/inconsistent with other lies?

What other purpose would statements, reports from the government have if they weren’t intended to influence you?

Do you really think any government wants you to be an independent, well-informed participant in public decision making processes? No wonder you believe fake news so often.

Don’t you find it odd that Western reports of Islamic State bombings are always referred to as “terrorist” events and yet when Allied forces kill another 56 civilians, nary a peep of the moniker “terrorist?”

Alastair’s post is a great read and help towards avoiding some forms of fake news.

There are other sources, such as the reflex to parrot Western government views on events that are more difficult to avoid.

PS: I characterize bombing of civilians as an act of terrorism. Whether the bombing is with a suicide-vest or jet aircraft, the intent is to kill, maim, in short, to terrorize those in the area.

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